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TORONTO — When the Blue Jays broke camp at the end of March, Trent Thornton was a rookie with a loose grip on a rotation spot. By the time the season ended, Thornton led the club in starts and innings pitched while representing the one surprise constant in the rotation.

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After beating out Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio for that rotation spot out of Spring Training, it seemed likely that the eventual return of either Clay Buchholz or Ryan Borucki would bump Thornton back to Triple-A. That moment never came, though, and the 26-year-old right-hander went on to post a 4.84 ERA over 154 1/3 innings. As the Blue Jays battled injuries alongside the trades of both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, Thornton’s starts were one of the few forms of consistency on an ever-changing roster.

Acquired last offseason from the Astros for Aledmys Díaz, Thornton has now positioned himself well to lock down a rotation spot in 2020 and beyond.

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What went right?
Thornton’s season offers a valuable glimpse at what continued development looks like at the Major League level. There were highs and lows through the early half of the season as Thornton adjusted to the big leagues — and life in the American League East — but he finished strong.

In September, Thornton posted a 2.19 ERA over his final five games (two starts), and his pitches remained sharp despite the physical toll of his first full MLB season. Thornton was open throughout the season about his need to do a better job controlling his mental game, and he made strides in that area with the help of the Blue Jays’ staff and their rostered veterans, like Buchholz.

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“I think he’s going to get better and better,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “The more he pitches, the more he knows the league, the more strikes he throws. Whenever his command gets really good, he’s going to be a good pitcher for a long time, I believe.”

What went wrong?
Inconsistency followed Thornton for much of the season, which is to be expected from a rookie whose delivery has so many moving parts.

Based on the projected salaries for this year’s starting pitching market, the Blue Jays have plenty of affordable options to upgrade their rotation, at least in theory.
For one reason or another, there’s a very slim chance that the Blue Jays will get serious in the bidding for Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. We could talk about why that’s a foolish notion on it’s own, but I’d rather move on for now and be blown over in surprise if I’m wrong.

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Should the Brewers target Didi Gregorius in free
agency?

Even if the Blue Jays aren’t ready to spend on the top tier of free agent starting pitchers this off-season, it’s widely assumed that they’ll be looking to upgrade their rotation before the 2020 campaign gets underway. After a year that saw them relying on inexperienced options like Jacob Waguespack, Trent Thornton, and many others, and occasionally even inadequate ones like Edwin Jackson, there’s a clear need for improvement. They had far too many games started by an “opener” for my liking as well, even if it was born out of necessity at that point.

The good news is the front office has already started to address the need by acquiring Chase Anderson on Sunday. The Brewers were reportedly waffling on whether or not to pick up his 8.5 million dollar salary, and instead accepted Chad Spanberger as a low to mid-level prospect from the Blue Jays instead. Anderson will help, but he’s not enough on his own to boost the needy group.

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The assumption is that they’ll bring back Matt Shoemaker as well in the last year of his arbitration eligibility, and hopefully add one more veteran to the group. Whether they’re looking for a long or short term option to fill that need, there are plenty of options available on the market. Beyond Cole and Strasberg there likely aren’t any aces, but the Blue Jays don’t need that in order to move the needle, even if it would be nice.

Let’s have a look at some of the affordable options that the Blue Jays could offer a contract. According to mlbtraderumors.com and their off-season predictions, there should be several to choose from.

Thornton was evidently searching for the optimal pitch mix and his consistent control, which he would find for stretches of two or three starts before hitting some turbulence again. His fastball, which averaged 92.9 mph according to Statcast, and hammering curveball both have the potential to be above-average pitches in the big leagues, but the development of his secondary pitches will be key.

Enter Buchholz, who Thornton praised often this season for his mentorship. Buchholz and Thornton tinkered with Thornton’s changeup and curveball grips, which brought some encouraging results late in the season. A full winter to make those grips feel more natural will help, both in terms of their consistency and Thornton’s confidence in throwing them.

“I’ll be able to work on it a little bit more,” Thornton said, “but ultimately, you just have to trust the pitch you’re throwing and have full conviction in it, as well.”

Best moment?
Thornton got his first crack at his old team, the Astros, on June 16 in Houston and turned in one of his best performances of the season.

Over 6 2/3 shutout innings, Thornton danced around six hits and three walks while striking out seven, including Yordan Alvarez twice. There were a handful of Thornton’s pitching lines that look similar to this Astros performance, but his performance against a lineup of that quality and ability to balance his emotions on the mound make this one stand above the rest.

Thornton fans 7 in 6 2/3 frames
Thornton fans 7 in 6 2/3 frames
01:19
Jun. 16th, 2019
2020 outlook?
If the season started today, Thornton would be in the starting rotation. The same will probably be true when the season actually starts, but plenty can happen between now and then, as the Blue Jays are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of multiple starting pitchers.

“Nothing is etched in stone,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said in early October. “I think Trent Thornton has probably put the best foot forward, but his offseason will be very important. A lot of guys could make huge strides.”

If Thornton can take one of those strides himself and drag his 4.84 ERA down by half a run, he’ll have value over another full, healthy season. Until the Blue Jays’ offseason plan becomes clearer, Thornton has the clear inside lane on a permanent rotation spot in ’20.

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Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Raul Mondesi was sentenced to eight years in prison on corruption charges.
Every baseball player eventually needs to find something to do once their career comes to an end. Some go into coaching, others go into business, or just sit back and enjoy retirement. For former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Raul Mondesi, the call of politics was far too strong.

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As it turned out, the call of money and grift was also irresistible for Mondesi. The former Dodgers outfielder, and mayor of San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic, has been sentenced to eight years in prison and fined the equivalent of $1.19 million.

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Giants: Could Eric Thames address the need for more
power?

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BREAKING NEWS: Former National League Rookie of The Year Raul Mondesi was convicted on charges on corruption, has been sentenced to 8 years of prison time and forced to pay a fine of 60 million pesos.http://z101digital.com/tribunal-ratifica-sentencia-por-corrupcion-contra-exalcalde-ra …#ZDigital #[email protected] @ZDeportes

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Dave Martinez is now the skipper of the Washington Nationals, but as a player he made a brief stop as a Blue Jay back in 2000.
We’re down to the final two teams for the 2019 season, and the World Series has the Houston Astros pitted against the Washington Nationals.

The Astros have been there before, but for the Nationals, playing in the fall classic is something this group has been just shy of for a few years now. For guys like Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Ryan Zimmerman, it’s the payoff they’ve been working to achieve for years.

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Giants: Could Eric Thames address the need for more
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Behind the bench if a relatively new skipper for the Nationals, but not exactly someone who is unfamiliar with the world of Major League Baseball. Dave Martinez has helped push the Nationals from several early playoff exits into a team that is just three wins away from a World Series championship. And since there isn’t much going on in the world of the Blue Jays right now, I thought it might be fun to look back at his brief time spent as a player in Toronto.

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It was back in 2000 when Dave Martinez joined the Blue Jays for 47 games, joining a team put together by then-GM, Gord Ash, featuring guys like Carlos Delgado, Raul Mondesi, Tony Batista, David Wells, and many more. There were hopes that they could make a push for a playoff spot that season, which I assume is why they acquired the veteran outfielder. They fell short of qualifying for the postseason that year though, finishing with a record of 83-79.

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Martinez actually played very well during his brief stint as a blue bird, slashing .311/.393/.411 in 206 plate appearances, adding two home runs, 10 doubles, and 22 RBI at the age of 35. He ended up moving on to Atlanta to play for the Braves in 2001, which turned out to be his final season as a player.

Martinez’s trade to the Blue Jays was a notable one, especially because it broke a record at the time. The veteran started the season with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (that was their name at the time) and played 29 games with them before he was dealt to the Cubs. He played just 18 games in Chicago before he was traded a second time, landing in with the Texas Rangers. Last but not least, Martinez was traded a third time to Toronto for a player to be named later, tying the MLB record by playing for four different teams in a season. That player to be named later ended up being Peter Munro, in case you were wondering.

NEXT: Is it worth moving Gurriel Jr. around the diamond again?
He wasn’t in Toronto for long, but I certainly remember the positive impact he made on the Blue Jays during that 2000 season, and it’s great to see him succeeding in a new role at the highest level.

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During his time with the Dodgers, Mondesi was a dangerous power hitter. He made his only All Star Game while wearing Dodger Blue, was the 1994 NL Rookie of the Year, and was a two time Gold Glove winner. Over the course of his career, Mondesi posted a .273/.331/.485 batting line, hitting 271 homers and stealing 229 bases.

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As it turns out, those 229 bases may not have been all that Mondesi swiped over his career. Mondesi was accused of embezzling more than 300 million pesos (nearly $6 million) from 2010 through 2016. After all, $6 million is a fairly impressive sum, more so than 229 stolen bases.

However, that success on the diamond, and his former stature in the game, are millions of miles away at this point. Mondesi will be spending the next eight years in prison, the former mayor and All Star having fallen far from grace, this prison sentence the end result of an investigation that had begun back in 2017.

The loss of his freedom and that fine are not the punishments that Mondesi has received. He has also been banned from holding public office for ten years, putting any further political ambitions that Mondesi may have on hold.

NEXT: Cingrani lost for the season
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Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Raul Mondesi is heading to prison, with an eight year sentence following an investigation into his time as mayor in the Dominican Republic. It is an amazing fall from grace.

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The Toronto Blue Jays brain trust has proclaimed they will be looking to improve the roster this offseason via the trade route, however, which players are completely untouchable?
The Blue Jays will be searching for controllable impact arms this offseason but as we all know that will not come cheap especially seeing the Jays don’t historically wade into the deep end to land the high priced free-agent catch.

Ross Atkins and company definitely have the assets to net a big fish via trade but who would you be willing to part with from the current roster. In order to get quality, sometimes you have to give up quality.

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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball’s average attendance dropped 1.7% this year for its fourth straight decline, and five of the six biggest drops were by teams with losing records.

Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco and Detroit combined for more than 1.8 million fewer tickets, and a 259-388 won-lost record.

The 30 teams averaged 28,339, according to the commissioner’s office, down from 28,830 last year — the first time the average was below 30,000 since 2003. Total attendance of 68.5 million was down more than 5 million from 2015.

The players’ association maintains attendance has been hurt by an increase in rebuilding teams, which its members and staff label “tanking.”

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“The wilful failure of too many franchises to field competitive teams and put their best players on the field is unquestionably hurting our industry,” union head Tony Clark said last week.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says rebuilding is cyclical and attendance and record correlate in some markets but not all. He also points out the success of the sport in television ratings and an increase in minor league gates.

ATLANTA – By now, the front office flair of Alex Anthopoulos is well recognized and for the most part appreciated by the win-now segment of baseball fandom.

The Montreal native who helped build the Blue Jays franchise back into prominence a few years back recognizes the nuances of the modern game and the importance of having a deep and productive farm system.

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But there is a craps player at the core of Anthopoulos as well, a gambler not shy about rolling the dice to make a big score when the timing and the table conditions are just right.

He did it in Toronto, boldly trading for players such as Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and David Price while signing others like Jose Bautista and Russell Martin, all huge components in setting up the playoff runs of 2015 and 2016.

Now as the Braves begin their post-season journey here on a sizzling Thursday evening in the south, and considered as a sleeper threat to win it all, one of his latest high-stakes moves is a big reason why.

For the second time in their respective careers, third baseman Donaldson and general manager Anthopoulos are together for some October baseball. And to this point anyway, it couldn’t have worked out better.

“We gave him the biggest one-year contract in the history of the game and that contract reflected the fact that we thought he had a chance to be healthy and if he was, he would be one of the better players in the game,” Anthopoulos said in an interview with the Toronto Sun. “Short term it was good for both sides. Josh had been hurt for two seasons in a row so there was always that risk.

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“From his standpoint, a lot of things lined up well for him. But really, this is what we all hoped for.”

That one-year, $23 million US deal had its skeptics on both sides. Why would the Braves, for example, pay that kind of money for a player who couldn’t stay healthy in his final two years with the Jays?

And for Donaldson, at age 33, why would he agree to a one-year deal at this point in his career?

The answer for both was risk-reward and trusting their respective instincts.

“We understood when we got him that he was in line for a big contract with Toronto and unfortunately he got hurt,” Anthopoulos said. “Both of us looked at this as a place for him to rebuild his value, be in a good clubhouse on a good team and to re-establish himself.

“For us, the advantage was that coming into 2019 we knew what we had here and that he could be a valuable addition.”

Anthopoulos hit all the right notes in his pitch for the Bringer of Rain. Come to the south and play for a team you were a fan of as a kid. Be a role model for a young, talented and motivated group of players. And finally, get healthy and lead that team to the postseason.

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“It’s been a good fit for him,” Anthopoulos said. “First and foremost, Josh wanted to go to a team where he had a chance to win. Obviously, that was important to him. We had just come off winning the division and adding him only made us that much more competitive. And his familiarity with the staff helped.”

The familiar face factor was indeed critical to Donaldson, especially given his frustration with the Jays the previous year when he missed most of the season due to a variety of ailments.

When the Jays fired head trainer George Poulis after the 2017 season, Anthopoulos wasted little time bringing him and assistant Mike Frostad to Atlanta. The long-time Jays employee and Donaldson were tight, a relationship that immediately flourished here.

“There’s no magic, it’s his hard work,” Poulis said of Donaldson’s resurgence. “He’s very, very diligent at working.

“It’s the same as I remember in Toronto. I’ve been in this game for 30 years and I’ve always had a deep respect for the everyday player. To see Josh do it and be determined … He’s a special person, no question.”

Almost incredibly given his age, the violence of his swing and his recent injury history, Donaldson has been that reliable everyday player in 2019, a force at the plate and a reliable defender at third.

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Health has been key, as he has both trusted his body and worked to get it back to the supreme condition that allowed him to play in 155 games including 100 consecutive.

“When I was hurt, there were some people who thought I didn’t want to play,” Donaldson said, shaking his head. “They thought I was done. They had no idea what I was going through. That’s not me.”

The logical next question is one that is on hold — for now. What’s next for Donaldson?

If he leads the Braves to their first playoff series win since 2001 and to a 10th World Series appearance in franchise history, it will be difficult to let him get away.

“Everything that both sides hoped would happen has,” Anthopoulos said. “He came here and was comfortable, was able to stay on the field and was able to perform at a high level to put himself in a position to get the contract he deserves.

“Whether that will be from us, we’ll see. Rightfully there’s going to be a lot of demand on him. We think we have a lot to offer as well. Josh has been great and has been a huge part of our success. We’d love having him here long term.”

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George Poulis is a big fan of his boss and not just because the Braves general manager rescued him off the unemployment line when the long-time trainer was let go by the Blue Jays.

In Braves Alex Anthopoulos, Poulis sees a winning personality with motivation to excel.

“Alex is a guy who is very driven,” said Poulis, who worked for Anthopoulos with the Jays and was hired in Atlanta prior to the 2018 season. “He doesn’t settle for second best. Every waking hour, he’s working and pushing people to get better around him.

“That’s what I love about Alex the most. He makes us all better people.”

As for third baseman Josh Donaldson, Poulis is also rather bullish on the Bringer of Rain.

“I’m not into predictions, but I’ll never bet against this guy,” Poulis said.

“We’re going to draw 68-plus million people at the big league level,” Manfred said, “another 41 million in minor league baseball — they’re actually going to be up. I’ll take 110 million people going to see the sport live. That’s a really, really awesome number in an environment where people have more and more and more alternatives to consume.”

Toronto had the biggest home attendance drop, falling 575,137 in a season in which the Blue Jays went 67-95 for their third straight losing season and most losses since 1980.

Seattle fell 507,769 as the Mariners went 68-94, their poorest record since 2011. San Francisco went down 448,425 and ended a streak of nine consecutive seasons at 3 million or more that coincided with three World Series titles. The Giants went 77-85 in their third straight losing season.

Detroit dropped 355,540 while going a big league-worst 47-114, the second-most losses in team history. The Tigers’ 1.5 million home attendance was their lowest since their 119-loss season in 2003.

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Washington, which earned an NL wild card and beat Milwaukee to reach the Division Series, fell 269,823 following the departure of Bryce Harper to Philadelphia as a free agent.

Baltimore dropped 256,385 while going 54-108, and the Orioles’ 1.3 million fans at home were their fewest in a non-shortened season since 1978 at old Memorial Stadium.

In all, home attendance dropped for 14 of the 30 teams, although three of those teams fell by less than 100,000, Miami rose by 198 people to 811,302 while going 57-105 in Derek Jeter’s second season as chief executive.

Kansas City went down by 185,448 and fell below 1.5 million for the first time since 2006.

On the plus side, Philadelphia rose 569,297 after signing Harper and despite an 81-81 record finished above 2.7 million for the first time since 2013, when the Phillies started a streak of six straight losing seasons.

Minnesota went up 334,955 boosted by a 101-61 record, the second-most wins in team history, San Diego went up 227,863 after signing free agent slugger Manny Machado but skidded to a 70-92 record. The New York Mets went up 217,537 boosted by an August spurt and their first winning record since 2016.

Rays win American League Wild Card 5-1

For me personally and most of you, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are going nowhere. That is a no-brainer. However, I value Cavan Biggio just as high as the likes of Bo and Vladdy. The baseball IQ and raw tools he put on display over the final two months of the season is very promising. Biggio is untouchable.

That leaves Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as possibly your best trade chip from the roster and although I am a huge Gurriel fan, I am listening if a team comes calling and is willing to offer up an arm. Gurriel has shown flashes of brilliance with the stick but has struggled to remain on the field due to injury at times.

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Obviously, the Jays are not parting with Nate Pearson as the plan is to couple him with whoever they can acquire at the front of the rotation. Alek Manoah and Eric Pardinho are probably also on the no-trade list among minor leaguers.

There is some speculation in Blue Jays circles that the team acquired Simeon Woods Richardson to flip for a pitcher closer to being MLB ready this offseason. That type of move would make sense as he is still a number of years away and Atkins was pumping his tires pretty hard following the trade.

NEXT: Blue Jays: What free agents should they target this offseason?
It should be an interesting offseason to see what is available on the market and exactly what the team is willing to surrender to solidify the starting staff moving forward.